Adrian Peterson has been reinstated by the NFL, and he can play football again. Unfortunately for those who are dusting off their AP jerseys, it doesn’t look like he wants to play in Minnesota. Through his agent, he’s been saying for months that he doesn’t want to come back.
What Peterson wants is for the Vikings to graciously let him out of his contract so he can sign with any other team of his choice. What the Vikings want is literally anything else. They mostly want him to play in Minnesota to take pressure off of a young Teddy Bridgewater and to lead the team back to the playoffs. If they can’t have that, they’d at least like to trade him and get a bunch of picks.
Stars have a lot of power in the NFL. They can demand to get their way and teams will often give in. This time, that won’t happen.
The edge Peterson would have is that he can threaten not to play. The Vikings don’t want to pay him all that money and use up a roster spot on a guy who won’t contribute even a yard. If it’s clear he’ll sit on the bench, he could push them into trading him. Even if it’s not ideal, getting picks back for Peterson is much better than getting nothing.
That edge doesn’t exist, though, because Peterson isn’t 23. His career is rapidly coming to an end. He’s already 30, which is when a lot of running backs just fold up and crash.
Now, Peterson has shown on many occasions that he’s a freak of nature—such as when he came back from an ACL injury and almost broke the single-season rushing record. If there is any running back who can play well all the way to 35 or 36, it’s him. You just can’t underestimate this guy.
Still, 30 is 30. Peterson does not have another year to sit on the bench. He already spent the last one out of the league. Two in a row would take him to 31 before he’d see another NFL snap. After two years out of the league, at that age, it’s a stretch to say he’d step back in and be his old self again.
He needs to play and he needs to play now.
There are some who have argued that the last year off was good for Peterson, that it just means he’s fresh. He may be 30, but he’s on 29-year-old knees. He hasn’t taken the pounding most backs take and he hasn’t had the carries.
This is true to a degree. He will be fresh, and that year off, doing nothing but gym work, did help preserve his body. But players don’t just wear down from contact. They also wear down from age alone. The body just gets weaker. It doesn’t hold up as well. If this wasn’t true, there would be 30-year-old rookie players starting out in the NFL and doing well because they’re fresh. Peterson still aged a year, and that matters.
Anyone who could easily run five miles at 21 and who is dying to run just a mile at 30 knows how it works. The body isn’t what it once was. Not even for a freak like Peterson.
So the Vikings know he wants to be on the field. He’s not going to sit a year out in Minnesota. He may be unhappy, sure, but he’ll play. And that’s why they won’t release him. Because he’s not in a position to make that type of demand. They can wait to trade him until they get a killer offer—like multiple first-round picks—and they can just keep him if that offer never rolls in.